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Volvo Open 70

Perrotti Performance Design and Van Gorkom Yacht Design have teamed up to create a new Volvo 70 for the 2005-2006 Volvo Ocean Race. Together, we have helped sculpt the new Volvo 70 Rule, and have created a first generation design with promising performance. Here's an inside look at our work.

“The starting point is a brand new, state of the art, 70' monohull race-boat. This open design will have a canting keel and a choice of multiple rudders / daggerboards. Above all, it will be very fast and exciting to sail. The prescribed rule will remain relatively open, presenting a challenge and test for designers. The new Volvo Open 70 will be an easier boat to sail, with fewer sails to handle and better living conditions for the crew. The race rules will favor imagination, creativity and sailing skills, and not an environment where the biggest purse necessarily gives a bigger edge.” So touts the organizers of the Volvo Ocean Race.

The Volvo Ocean Race, previously known as the Whitbread Round the World Race, is an enduring pinnacle of offshore racing. The battleground of this grueling, global, monohull sailing competition pushes the skills of team sailors and designers to their limits, and captures the spirit and excitement of sailing enthusiasts everywhere.

Following successful competitions in 80-foot IOR maxis and the more nimble Volvo Ocean 60’s, the next event introduces an exciting new class that will continue to promote breakthrough innovation, design, and speed. On the tails of the 2001-2002 race, the Volvo Ocean Race team solicited extensive contributions from a consortium of a half-dozen designers (ourselves included), as well as sailors and sponsors to help sculpt the framework of this latest ocean going thoroughbred.

This culmination of creativity and innovation has given birth to the Volvo 70 and a new format of racing that couples long-distance offshore sailing with six action-packed inshore stopovers. Starting from the Mediterranean on November 5th, 2005, the race ports-of-call include Cape Town/South Africa, Melbourne/Australia, Rio de Janeiro/Brazil, Baltimore/Annapolis/USA, Southampton/UK, Goteborg/Sweden, and a finish at a Baltic port (TBA).

The race will be scored on a high-point system tiered to the number of competing yachts. Using 12 entries as an example: On each of the seven ocean legs, 1st, 2nd, 3rd placed finishers will receive 12, 11, 10 points, respectively. Mid-ocean scoring gates (one or two per leg) add an additional 6, 5.5, 5 points to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd boats to round these locations. And each of the six in-port regattas will award 1st, 2nd, 3rd placed finishers with 6, 5.5, 5 points, respectively. The ocean legs will account for 80% of the total point tally, while in-port, round-the-cans sprints will account for 20%.

In its very conception, the Volvo 70 is a recipe for success. Its ingredients are simple … Sailors wanted speed, power, and comfort. Race organizers wanted durability and safety. Sponsors wanted innovation and excitement. Blend these ingredients together with a dose of careful planning and management headed by CEO, Glenn Bourke, and Racing Director, Andy Hindley, to create a winning game plan for sport at its most exhilarating best.

Volvo 70 Principal Dimensions

Like its smaller 60-foot cousin, the Volvo 70 is a rule-based, box design with an abundant allowance for creativity and speed potential, yet tempered with prudent restrictions for safety. Let’s examine the differences:

Bigger …
With an additional six feet of waterline length (and a displacement similar to that of the smaller 60’s), the Volvo 70 will turn the physics of speed/length ratio into a record setting pace. 500+ mile days could be the norm. Optimized towards off-the-wind sailing, hullforms will be wide and shallow aft, with narrow forward entries. The narrow entry offers minimum residuary (or wave) drag, while the broad, shallow stern promotes favorable planing characteristics. Hollows are permitted only in the bow, and locally in way of appendage attachments such as fin dillets (a concave fillet) and rudder bearing installations.

Yachts will have an open choice of multiple rudder / daggerboard options, the restriction being that each appendage can only have one degree of freedom (rotation, retraction, etc.). Dual rudders aft with port / starboard retractable daggerboards may be typical. But keep your eyes open, too, for bow-rudder designs following the form of CBTF’s “canting ballast, twin foil” concept. A team’s selected configuration will intrinsically tradeoff: high aspect ratio fins for maximum lift efficiency when on the wind or reaching; reduced wetted surface when sailing downwind; maneuverability and round-the-cans acceleration; and durability and robustness dictated by an extreme ocean environment.

After much discussion amongst race organizers and sailors, water ballast in wing tanks will not be allowed. However, nearly 320 gallons of water ballast is permitted in an on-centerline, aft tank for optimizing trim and waterline length. As a result, sailing displacements will be lighter with hulls inherently designed with narrower maximum beams, as the drive for a maximized righting arm using water ballast has been eliminated. Stability, though, is not lacking …

Stiffer …
The most intriguing feature of the Volvo 70 is its canting keel and 9900 pound bulb. Dual (and redundant, should one fail) hydraulic rams can rotate the CG of the ballast package 40 degrees to weather to create a very significant 25% increase in stability and power. A canting keel offers lower wetted surface, less form drag, and less required weight than a conventional keel. Coupled, these benefits enhance performance dramatically, with prior success demonstrated in the proving grounds of single-handed round-the-word circuits.

More powerful …
The enticement of added stability is answered by a large, powerful sail plan. Fractionally rigged, with a large, full roach mainsail, the sail plan gains added power from masthead spinnakers and a Code Zero type sail. A fixed (non-articulating) bowsprit extends 6 feet beyond the bow, enabling easily tacked chute flying. Mainsail area approaches 2000 square feet, with spinnakers encompassing up to 5600 square feet of area. The trick to success, though, is inventory. In an effort to keep team campaign costs in check, Volvo Ocean Race organizers have tightly limited the number of sails available to each team. Capped at 24 for the entire race (no more than three mainsails), each leg is further limited to eleven primary sails: one mainsail, four headsails (including a staysail), one reacher, and five spinnakers -- at least two of which shall be a fractionally flown. Storm sails are unlimited. Sails with major recuts will be re-measured as new sails. In essence, the ultimate power of the boat will be dramatically affected by the team’s ability to efficiently design, nurture, and maintain their limited quiver of carefully conceived sails. Sail shapes must be carefully examined in the design stage to optimize wind speed crossovers supplemented by the added stability of the canting keel. Further, sails must have versatility for rapid-paced, round-the-buoy racing, where use of the canting keel may be limited from a practical sense. Interestingly, carbon sails will not be allowed, both from a cost-savings standpoint, as well as the threat of their detrimental impact on radar transmission.

Roll, baby, roll …
Volvo 70’s must be designed to stringent large-heel-angle stability criteria. While a canting keel increases stability (or righting moment) dramatically under typical sailing conditions (say 30 degrees of heel), its offset CG actually works against a self-righting tendency at large, knockdown heel angles. Accordingly, Volvo 70 Rule developers have closely examined limitations on hull displacement and beam that affect form stability, with additional limitations on keel weight and keel swing angles. Each yacht shall have a designer-calculated limit of positive stability greater than 115 degrees, with appendages positioned in a worst-case scenario. In addition, each boat must successfully self-right from a 180-degree inversion using only manual power to articulate the keel.

Home, sweet home …
The finer details of the new Volvo 70 class have been largely driven by sailors’ recommendations for ergonomic efficiency, both above deck and below. The Rule endeavors to provide some rudimentary level of comfort – a little corner of home in the roaring southern oceans. Well, maybe not luxurious, but substantially better than the 60’s. A limited sail inventory translates to more available space down below, and the Volvo 70 puts this to good use. Each boat will have a dedicated navigation station, and a separate, dedicated media center. A minimum of ten berths provides for less “hot bunkings.” Heaters will provide welcomed comfort in the chilled waters of the southern ocean. The galley encompasses a two-burner stove, sink, and reasonable area of counter space. To buffer the hygienic preparation of food, an additional sink is required for general use, separate from the galley. And, most enticingly, the crew will have the luxury of a separate toilet enclosure offering some measure of privacy.

Crew numbers have been reduced from 60-foot standards. An all-male crew will be limited to nine. A mixed crew (at least five women) will be limited to 10, and an all-female team may have up to 11 crew onboard. During in-port races, each team may take on one extra crewmember, likely with specialized local-knowledge or fleet racing skills. Additionally, up to three non-participating representatives from the syndicate, sponsors, or media may join the in-port racing.

Stronger …
Scantlings for the new Volvo 70’s utilize modern construction materials with precautionary safety features. Hulls will have carbon fiber skins sandwiched around a honeycomb core. Bulkheads divide each yacht into at least five watertight compartments, with additional local subdivision around appendage attachments. Any one compartment may flood without immersing the deck. Deck layouts can use off-the-shelf titanium fittings. The mast and boom can be carbon. However, carbon may not be used for the fin of the canting keel – a restriction geared towards conservative engineering in this all-to-critical part.

The Volvo Ocean Race will test the sailors' skills and not that of an on-shore routing team. Explains Glenn Bourke, “During the race itself, on-shore weather routing by meteorological experts will not be allowed. Weather packages will be provided to the fleet daily and at regular intervals from the state-of-the art race HQ in the UK.”

As a new mandate for 2005-2006, each new boat MUST be raced, effectively eliminating “idle” trial horses. Time, itself, plays a critical role. Backtracking from a planned autumn 2005 start, teams forming now can expect: 3 months of startup organization, fundraising, etc.; 6 months of intense research and design; 6 to 8 months of boat construction; and 4 to 6 months of sail testing, boat tuning, and offshore trial runs. In essence, the race is already on, with early gains to be made both on and off the water.

The Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006 and the new Volvo 70 promise to deliver speed and excitement to the sailing community and push the limits of performance into unprecedented territory. We think we’re off to a good start.

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